Shreveport, Louisiana was the scene for Frank Beamer's final coaching effort for Virginia Tech. The 40th edition of The Camping World Independence Bowl saw a matchup between the Virginia Tech Hokies, and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Tulsa first year coach Philip Montgomery had the Hurricane at 6-6 entering the game. Montgomery is an Art Briles disciple having spent 16 years with the Baylor coach. Montgomery is known for his offensive philosophy which usually puts up points in bunches. Frank Beamer is known for introducing the world to Virginia Tech Football. Beamer brought unprecedented success to Virginia Tech during his tenure. The Hokies also entered the bowl game with a 6-6 record. The Hokies battled injuries all season, and beat hated rival U.V.A. to become bowl eligible in the last game of the regular season. Beamer was finishing his 29th and last season at the helm, and the Hokies seemed determined to send Frank off a winner.
Tulsa got the scoring underway in a hurry. D'Angelo Brewer broke a huge 48 yard for a touchdown and with less than a minute off the clock 7-0 Tulsa. Tech was quick to respond when Travon McMillian answered with a 51 yarder. It was 7-7, and the game was less than 3 minutes old! Both defenses appeared they were struggling with a Christmas hangover, and Zach Langer capped off a 5 play 75 yard touchdown drive in only :59 seconds. With just under 12 minutes to play in the first quarter it was 14-7 Golden Hurricane.
Back and forth we go! @TulsaFootball goes back ahead 14-7 on 2-yard TD run by Zack Langer. 11:54 left in the 1st— CampingWorldIndyBowl (@IndyBowl) December 26, 2015
Michael Brewer was upset with his teammates after the previous drive. It took them too long to score on the first possession. Isaiah Ford solved that problem by hauling in a 75 yard catch and run on the Hokies' first play of the ensuing drive. 14-14, and it looked like we were in a shootout in Shreveport. The Hokies defense made its first stop of the game on the next Tulsa drive, forcing the rare early punt. Greg Stroman decided we needed to have the short field, and had a great punt return of 44 yards that set the Hokies up in the red zone. Tulsa stopped the Hokies, and Joey Slye came out and banged home a 27 yarder to put the Hokies up 17-14 with 9:53 left in the first quarter. Tech then had Tulsa in a third and Biloxi, and forced the second consecutive Golden Hurricane punt. Punter Dalton Parks seemed to have red the Hokies kick blocking resume, and looked a little gun shy. The Hokies next series featured a steady dose of J.C. Coleman. It was junior Sam Rogers that eventually broke some arm tackles and took it to the house from 14 yards. With 5:28 left in the FIRST QUARTER, it was VT 24 Tulsa 14.
More touchdowns? OK more touchdowns! @VT_Football now leads 24-14 after 14-yd TD run by Sam Rogers. 5:28 left in the 1st quarter.— CampingWorldIndyBowl (@IndyBowl) December 26, 2015
Tulsa then started marching right down the field again. My typing skills were now being downgraded to doubtful after trying to keep up with all this action. Tulsa got it down to the Tech 11, but was faced with a crucial 4th and 1. Senior Zack Langer picked up the tough first down, and the Golden Hurricane had it first and goal. And on cue Bishop Louie reeled in the 9 yarder from Dane Evans. It was Tech 24-21 with 2:19 left, I repeat, in THE FIRST QUARTER. The 45 points scored already tied the Independence Bowl record for points in a HALF. The teams combined for an amazing 18 first downs. The second quarter began with the Hokies, you guessed it, driving down the field. Bucky Hodges name hadn't been called yet, so why not? He lined up as the QB and ran it in for the touchdown from 16 yards out. VT 31 Tulsa 21. After forcing a rare Tulsa, Isaiah hauled in beautiful 46 yard rainbow from Brewer. Travon Mcmillian cashed the easy score from the 1. VT 38 Tulsa 21 with 9:09 in the first half. The defense seemed to be quasi-figuring out the high tempo Tulsa offense, and forced another Tulsa punt. That was a bad idea, as Greg Stroman ran it back 67 yards for the touchdown. Tech's D held Tulsa to a FG, and then the unthinkable happened: Tulsa forced Virginia Tech to punt for the first time with less than 2 minutes left in the first half. Tulsa tried to make the most of the quarter putting together a furious last drive. D'Angelo Brewer gashed the Hokies for a 10 yard touchdown right up the middle. With 20 seconds left in the half Tech led 45-31. Thankfully that wrapped up the scoring *whew*.
The second half began like the first one. The Hokies received the ball an kept the up tempo attack coming. Cam Phillips made his first grab of the game to keep the opening drive alive. Isaiah Ford then made history. Ford became the most prolific receiver in Independence Bowl History. Ford had over 200 yards receiving early in the third. Virginia Tech went for 81 yards in 15 plays and Trey Edmunds plunged in from the one to make it 52-31 Hokies. Beamer was closing his legacy with one of the most prolific scoring nights in Hokie history. It was the Hokies' fifth rushing touchdown of the game! More importantly the drive chewed up half the third quarter and kept Tulsa off the field. The Hokies held Tulsa on their first series of the half, and forced a punt. It seemed Bud Foster and his defense were very fired up that series. Michael Brewer decided that Tulsa needed some help, and he obliged. Brewer threw a pick that was returned by Jeremy Brady for 43 yards. Tulsa QB Dane Evans took it in on the next play, and it was VT 52 Tulsa 37. The score made this Independence Bowl the highest scoring in its 40 year history.
There was 4:03 left in the game, and both offenses looked unstoppable. Then the defenses decided they had enough. Both teams traded punts, and the 3rd quarter came to a close. Tech had a great chance to score, but J.C. Coleman fumbled it out of the endzone for the Tulsa touchback. After some punts, Tech put together a solid drive culminating in a 41 Slye FG. Virginia Tech 55 Tulsa 37 with 11:09 left in this epic shootout.
The Hokies defense had an interception called back because an offsides penalty. Dane Evans made the Hokies pay, as he found Josh Atkinson in the end zone on a beautiful throw and catch. Tech had a ten point lead with 7:35 left, but with the way both teams were scoring, it didn't feel safe at all. Sure enough Tulsa forced the Hokies to a three and out. Tulsa QB Evans quickly began putting throws together. Keyarris Garrett hauled in another beauty for 36 yards and a Golden Hurricane touchdown. With 3:47 left in the game Tulsa had crept to within 3. Tulsa's defense held Virginia Tech on a crucial third down, and with 2:00 minutes left in the game and Frank Beamer's career Tulsa had the ball. QB Dane Evans immediately started moving the ball against the gassed Hokies. Luther Maddy had an answer when he got a six yard sack. After an incompletion, in was 4th and 16 for Tulsa and the ballgame. Dadi Nicolas sealed the win with a devastating sack on Evans. Virginia Tech went into the victory formation. Isaiah Ford was the offensive M.V.P. with 12 catches for 227 and a TD.